Small plane pilot survives crash into Tampa Bay

March 23, 2014 

ST. PETERSBURG — The pilot of a small plane safely escaped after crashing his plane into the waters of Tampa Bay.

The plane ditched into the water Sunday at around 2 p.m. about 300 to 400 yards southeast of the U.S. Coast Guard base at Bayboro Harbor.

The pilot was flying a 1951 Cessna L19 “Bird Dog” owned by Advertising Air Force and managed to evacuate from the cockpit after it entered the water. The St. Petersburg Police Department says Robert Gilchrist sat on top of the plane until a rescue team arrived.

Authorities say he appears uninjured.

Gilchrist told officers he had just picked up an advertising banner at the airport and was starting to climb when he began to experience engine failure. The plane remains submerged and preparations for recovery are ongoing.

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